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HQ 556743

September 18, 1992

CLA-2 CO:R:C:S 556743 RAH


TARIFF NO.: 9802.00.80

Mr. Ralph Ronderos
Omega Customs Brokers Inc.
P.O. Box 52-9814
Miami, FL 33152

RE: Applicability of partial duty exemption under HTSUS subheading 9802.00.80 to veneer panels from Brazil; Sanding

Dear Mr. Ronderos:

This is in reference to your letter of March 12, 1992, on behalf of Viking International Corporation, requesting a ruling regarding the applicability of subheading 9802.00.80, Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS), to veneer panels to be imported from Brazil. Your letter was forwarded to this office for a response by our New York office.


The merchandise to be imported into the United States is unidirectional veneer panels consisting of a five ply viola core with a face and back ply of birch or oak. The viola core is of Brazilian origin and the birch and oak veneers are of United States origin. The veneers are sent to Brazil in sheets of 50 by 99 inches and 50 by 87 inches. In Brazil, the veneer sheets are glued to the front and back of the core. The edges are then trimmed and the front and back are sanded. The panels will be imported in 4 by 8 foot and 4 by 7 foot sizes.


Whether the veneer panels are entitled to the partial duty exemption under subheading 9802.00.80, HTSUS.


Subheading 9802.00.80, HTSUS, provides a partial duty exemption for:

[a]rticles assembled abroad in whole or in part of fabricated components, the product of the United States, which (a) were exported in condition ready for assembly without further fabrication, (b) have not lost their physical identity in such articles by change in form, shape, or otherwise, and (c) have not been advanced in value or improved in condition abroad except by being assembled and except by operations incidental to the assembly process, such as cleaning, lubricating and painting.

All three requirements of subheading 9802.00.80, HTSUS, must be satisfied before a component may receive a duty allowance. An article entered under this tariff provision is subject to duty upon the full cost or value of the imported assembled article, less the cost or value of the U.S. components assembled therein, upon compliance with the documentary requirements of section 10.24, Customs Regulations (19 CFR 10.24).

Section 10.14(a), Customs Regulations (19 CFR 10.14(a)), states in part that:

[t]he components must be in condition ready for assembly without further fabrication at the time of their exportation from the United States to qualify for the exemption. Components will not lose their entitlement to the exemption by being subjected to operations incidental to the assembly either before, during, or after their assembly with other components.

Section 10.16(a), Customs Regulations (19 CFR 10.16(a)), provides that the assembly operation performed abroad may consist of any method used to join or fit together solid components, such as welding, soldering, riveting, force fitting, gluing, lamination, sewing, or the use of fasteners.

Operations incidental to the assembly process are not considered further fabrication operations, as they are of a minor nature and cannot always be provided for in advance of the assembly operations. However, any significant process, operation or treatment whose primary purpose is the fabrication, completion, physical or chemical improvement of a component precludes the application of the exemption under subheading 9802.00.80, HTSUS, to that component. See, 19 CFR 10.16(c).

In the instant case, gluing the birch or oak ply to the front and back of the core is an acceptable assembly operation as gluing is specifically enumerated in 19 CFR 10.16(a) as a proper method of assembly for purposes of subheading 9802.00.80, HTSUS. Furthermore, trimming the edges (removing 2-3 inches) is incidental pursuant to 10 CFR 10.16(b)(4) (trimming, filing, or cutting off of small amounts of excess materials is incidental to the assembly process).

Headquarters Ruling Letter 555216 dated June 8, 1989, concerned U.S.-origin steel door parts which were exported to Mexico to be assembled into steel doors. The operations in that case involved, among other things, welding, gluing, grinding, sanding and painting with a prime coat. We held that the final grinding and sanding operations to soothe out all imperfections caused by welding and to remove excess epoxy are acceptable operations incidental to the assembly process.

The sanding operation in question is not a further fabrication of the veneer panels but is a relatively minor operation which prepares the doors for finishing operations in the United States (i.e., staining, lacquering, printing, etc.). The sanding operation is performed after the edges of the assembled veneer panels are trimmed, which we find is reasonably sequential. Moreover, 19 CFR 10.14(a) specifically provides that incidental operations may be performed after assembly of the component parts.


On the basis of the information submitted, it is our opinion that gluing veneer sheets to the front and back of a five-ply viola core constitutes an acceptable assembly operation. Furthermore, trimming the panels and sanding the front and back of the veneer panels are considered incidental to the assembly operation. Therefore, allowances in duty may be made under subheading 9802.00.80, HTSUS, for the cost or value of the U.S.- made birch or oak plys upon return of the veneer panels to the United States, provided the documentary requirements of 19 CFR 10.24 are satisfied.


John Durant, Director
Commercial Rulings Division

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